Thursday, January 6, 2022

Guest View: Diane Peters - Town attempts to circumvent the Open Space requirement

The town of Oro Valley is considering transferring some town land to the new owner of OV Marketplace (Town West) in order for their development proposal to meet the open space requirement.

Is this what we’re going to do now? When an applicant’s plans do not meet open space requirements, we’ll just “gift” them some of the surrounding town or county land to make up for it? This is not the “open space” that Oro Valley residents envisioned when they approved the 2016 General Plan.

More for them, less for us
The town just keeps giving more and more to developers. As an example, when we moved here almost 20 years ago, washes/riparian lands were protected. You couldn't build in a wash...then suddenly developers were allowed to build in a wash. You couldn’t build into a hillside…and then you could. Five-story buildings were not allowed…and then they were.

Originally, developers had to meet open space the town has apparently devised a way for them to circumvent that requirement as well. Every year it's a new "gift" to developers and wealthy land owners. It's like a death by a thousand cuts.

Town finally admits that Vestar hoodwinked them in 2006
During a presentation that Town Planner, Michael Spaeth gave to P&Z during a Study Session on December 14th he said, "Ultimately the Marketplace has too much supply and not enough people to support the center." This was the conclusion of a study that the town had recently done.

What does that tell you? It should tell everyone, including the town staff, the P&Z Commissioners, and the Town Council that the town was hoodwinked by Vestar back in 2006 into believing that we had the population to support their vision of Oro Valley Marketplace. After all, that’s what Vestar’s demographic and population studies showed. The town believed them and gave them a $23 million dollar tax “incentive.”

Is the latest proposal just another hoodwinking?
The 2006 Vestar hoodwinking should be a warning to the town that they need to stop bending over backwards to appease developers and wealthy land owners. They will always “sell” their proposals by telling you that their project is what’s best for the town, when the truth is that their project is what’s best for their bank accounts. Their job is to spin it into something that appears to be what’s best for the town. That’s what Vestar did and we now know that they lied, or at the very least, that their study results were faulty. So whether it’s deliberate lying or faulty study results, why should we believe any “studies” submitted by applicants?

My plea to the P&Z Commissioners
Please don’t continue to fall for developers’ sales pitches.  Our town “leaders” never learn and Oro Valley residents pay the price with destroyed views, traffic congestion, traffic noise, air pollution, etc. Does any of that sound like the “small town feel” that Oro Valley voters said they wanted? Was the 2016 General Plan just another hoodwinking?  The open space requirement is supposed to be on the parcel in question…not on the surrounding parcels.

Reminder: Oro Valley’s Vision for the Future, Page 8 of the 2016 General Plan
Preserve the scenic beauty and environment
• desert and mountain views
• desert climate and environment
• wildlife and vegetation
• open space

Keep the unique community identity as a special place
• small town neighborly feel
• nice place to live
• quiet, delightful, laid back, and peaceful
• friendly and neighborly people
• clean and well-kept
• forward thinking
• built environment sets OV apart

Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. She’s been involved in OV politics and development issues since 2006, including organizing a citizens group in 2014 that spent 9 months negotiating a controversial 200-acre development project. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England. Her interests include reading, writing, nature photography, travel, art galleries, museums, and politics.